TV review | Conducting until the orchestra is crying – laughing

Two million Dutch people who tune in MaestroThat could just happen. And what had we learned in recent weeks? If a lot of people find something, then we have to listen to it. So if many viewers are watching something, then we should… also watch it. Sunday was the first episode of the seventh season, in which eight untrained well-known Dutch people conduct an orchestra. The candidates practice a new piece of music every week for eight weeks, and the one who performs it best wins the golden baton at the end of the elimination race. Who will continue in the competition and who will not, is determined by the professional jury, which consists of violinist Isabelle van Keulen, double bassist Dominic Seldis of the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Ed Spanjaard, conductor and professional teacher of orchestral conducting at the Conservatory in Amsterdam.

Full house, this first Maestro Sunday. There is a waiting list for the upcoming recordings of the program, according to the PHIL website in Haarlem – the hall was previously intended for the Philharmonie Haarlem, but that orchestra no longer exists. The 65-piece ‘special Maestro orchestra’ sat on stage, and if I remember correctly, it consisted of mostly freelance musicians who previously played with orchestras that have been closed down (Orkest van het Oosten, Holland Symfonia) or merged. (North Holland Philharmonic Orchestra).

The TV program has been denounced for as long as it has existed. In 2014 by writer Anna Enquist in Fidelity. A heart surgeon and a conductor, she says, will not differ much if you look at the number of years of study, assistantships and specializations. Having famous Dutch people perform an operation on television in eight weeks is unthinkable, she says. Why then suggest that anyone who makes “sufficiently bold arm movements in a rhythmic manner” is a conductor? Comedian Micha Wertheim wrote in 2014 in de Volkskrant about the program “in which highly educated musicians are forced to obey the incompetent Dutch people known from TV.” And opera singer Ernst Daniël Smid said in 2020 to the A.D that he thought the program was a “gross disgrace” and that he had no desire to watch “someone clowning around in front of an orchestra.”

A blindfolded driver

What the three above say is correct: experience is not necessary to participate in Maestro, knowledge of classical music is not a requirement and being able to read music is not a must. The more clumsy the amateur conductor, the more things go wrong with the orchestra, the shriller the notes sound, the more the audience likes it. The candidates – this season there are seven – are always thrown into the deep end in the first episode. They have practiced at home how they think it should be conducted, and then they perform in a packed hall.

Chris Zegers, presenter and actor, had difficulty being the conductor of all orchestra members. He managed to find the violinists, but the fact that the flutes did not come from the left, but from the right, was a surprise to him. According to the jury, journalist and presenter Roos Moggré conducted with “two arms that each said something different” and rapper Pepijn Lanen felt “like a blindfolded driver of a truck who does not switch to three” during the performance of the Hungarian dance by Johannes Brahms. ”. During the Sabeldans conducted by actress Tjitske Reidinga, tears rolled down the musicians’ cheeks with laughter. Her murderous pace, the chaos, the commotion she caused. She herself did not make it to the end and collapsed over her desk, exhausted and out of breath.

To say that not just anyone can lead an orchestra is far too snobby. Two million people like it, correct when things get messy.